Ready to Stomach Reclaimed Water?

With rising costs some think it’s starting to look less unappetizing

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Faucet.

    Are you fed up with the spiraling cost of city water?

    As much as you save, do you know how much goes to waste?

    Are you ready now to think beyond the tap -- to the toilet?

    For more than 15 years, 'toilet-to-tap' technology that reclaims sewer water for household use has been shouted down and shuddered over in San Diego.

    Now, given the astronomical price point of city water, what scientists call 'Indirect Potable Re-Use' is starting to look less unappetizing.

    "It would be an increase to our local water supply. It would make us less dependent on imported water and it would provide an alternate source for us that would be independent of the things that occur upstream at our wholesale level and in Northern California," said San Diego Deputy Public Utilities Director Alex Ruiz.

    To get to household taps, what's flushed down San Diego's toilets and processed at the Point Loma sewage treatment plant would go through several re-purifying stages before storage in San Vicente Reservoir.

    The city will soon start building a $12 million demonstration facility at the North City Water Reclamation Plant, which churns out recycled sewage for irrigation and industrial purposes.

    The toilet-to-tap process would produce a million gallons of clean water a day starting in May and if it's cost-effective, will eventually be expanded to produce up to 16 million gallons a day.

    That's about 9 percent of the sewage volume treated at Point Loma.

    On Wednesday, we heard a lot more favorable reaction to this venture than not.

    "I can accept it. I don't have a problem with it. Probably save a lot of money on bottled water, and polluting with all that," said Pacific Beach resident Lori Palmisano.

    "They can purify it all they want.  It's not going to work for me," said Rancho Bernardo resident Josh Silva.

    "I mean, we live in a desert out here, so if it was safe, I don't see that much of a problem with it. But I drink bottled water anyway," said Golden Hill resident William Barreuther.

    The mayor and City Council will have to sign off on taking the technology to the public water supply.